New Legislation for Pools, Spas, and Hot Tubs

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers' A112 plumbing standards meetings were held recently. One of the hot issues was recent legislation affecting the development of the standard ASME A112.19.8, "Suction Fittings for Use in Swimming Pools, Wading Pools, Spas, and Hot Tubs."
By RON GEORGE, CIPE, CPD April 8, 2008

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) A112 plumbing standards meetings were held recently in Reno, Nev. One of the hot issues was the recent legislation that was enacted affecting the development of the standard ASME A112.19.8, “Suction Fittings for Use in Swimming Pools, Wading Pools, Spas, and Hot Tubs.” This standard establishes materials, testing, and marking requirements for suction fittings that are designed to be totally submerged for use in swimming pools, wading pools, spas, and hot tubs, as well as other aquatic facilities. The legislation was passed on December 19, 2007, and was titled the Virginia Graeme-Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act of 2007.
The task force meeting on ASME A112.19.8 was well-attended, and everyone worked diligently to finalize the standard with language that would not result in “entrapment.”
Two types of entrapment are common with pools and spas. Suction entrapment is caused by a strong pool pump suction holding a person against the pool drain where they become entrapped by a suction or vacuum force. This is common when the pool suction cover is easily removed. The other type of entrapment is hair entanglement. Many pool suction fittings cause a vortex or swirling action as the water enters the pool outlet or suction fitting. Persons with long hair have become entrapped and drowned when their hair is sucked into the pool suction fitting, and the vortex twists their hair into a tight spiral virtually trapping them under water.
The Virginia Graeme-Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act of 2007 was named for the seven-year-old granddaughter of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. She drowned when her hair became trapped in a whirlpool. The legislation goes into effect on December 20, 2008, and mandates that all pool and spa suction fittings comply with the latest edition of the ASME A112.19.8 standard.
Specifically, the legislation will do the following:
* Prohibit the manufacture, sale, or distribution of drain covers that do not meet anti-entrapment safety standards established by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The legislation includes a directive for the CPSC to establish a safety standard for anti-entrapment drain covers (ASME A112.19.8). This will ensure that all drain covers available in the marketplace conform to certain safety criteria.
* Create an incentive grant program for states to adopt comprehensive pool and spa safety laws requiring certain safety devices in swimming pools and spas to protect children. The legislation provides grants to states that pass a comprehensive swimming pool and spa safety law. The bill requires states to use funds, if awarded, to hire and train personnel for the proper enforcement of state law, and to educate pool owners and operators, pool construction and installation companies, pool service companies, and the public about the state law and about drowning prevention practices.
* Establish a national drowning prevention education program within the CPSC. The bill requires the CPSC to create and administer an educational program to inform the public about ways to prevent drowning and entrapment in swimming pools and spas and execute a national media campaign to promote awareness of pool and spa safety.
* Require public pools to incorporate anti-entrapment drain covers and other layers of protection. The legislation requires that each public pool and spa must be equipped with anti-entrapment drain covers and other layers of protection, such as safety vacuum release systems.
The problem is the latest version of the standard is still not ready for publication. The ASME A112.19.8 committee is working to get the standard finished and ready for publication prior to the enforcement date of December 20, 2008. All public pools must comply with new ASME Standard.
But some older pools may become non-compliant as of the December 20, 2008, because of the pools piping design, or because of the size or shape of their pool suction fitting. Many public pools may require retrofits in order to meet the new standard. Someone at the meeting said insurance carriers should notify their clients of the requirements and advising pools that are no longer in compliance to be retrofitted or closed until modifications can be made.
The ASME committee has come out with a standard for a suction cover that minimizes the vortex action, and the standard requires more than one suction fitting to minimize the suction force on one drain. The vortex action is tested by using a stick with human hair that is long enough to be drawn into the drain. The hair is inserted into the test pool and allowed to be drawn into the suction fitting. Some pool suction fittings create such a vortex the pool cover is broken when the force is applied to remove the entrapped hair. This is enough force to hold a person under water. The newer pool suction fittings have flow-straightening vanes that minimize the vortex action and allows for removal of hair without entrapment. Additional suction fittings or a suction pressure activated relief valve that bypasses water around the pool pump allows another path for the water if someone sits on or covers one drain.
About the author: Ron George is president of Ron George Design & Consulting Services , which offers plumbing design and code consulting service,3-D CAD design and construction coordination services and forensic investigations of mechanical system failures and litigation support.